We don’t get snow often but we had a nice winter storm roll through last night. It’s not Reykjavik but it was down to 19° F or so. The fresh snow is light and fluffy, and the sheep are enjoying it. The dogs are going crazy, zipping around chasing each other.
It’s that time of year again when the great people at the Sheep and Goat research center in San Angelo have their annual Sheep Shearing workshop. This year Raphaela sheared for more practice and I took a 1-day Sheep fiber workshop. I met some really great participants including lots of fiber spinners, and small-scale wool producers. The message event was sponsored in part by Independence Farmstead Fibers, an artisan mill in Washington County, Texas.
Dr. Ron Pope taught the class on fleece, explaining how it’s genetic characteristics affect its utility and versatility. He and Dawn of Independence Wool extensively discussed the characteristics of wool fibers, and how they are poorly understood by the public, in part due to the hubris of wool-producers in the 20th century and poor marketing efforts. Dawn then gave us a virtual tour of her fiber mill and explained the complete process from Sheep to skein.
I strongly suggest that small-scale wool producers, hobby farmers, and anyone interested in artisan wool and wool crafts attend next year’s meeting. Registration is usually in October and ranges from $50 to $150. In return you’ll get lamb lunch, network with a lot of people with similar interests, and learn quite a bit. I think we’ll be back next year.
We purchased a few Icelandic ewes from Dark Horse Farms in Louisiana. As I was talking with the owner, Melissa Erlund, she mentioned that she had bought some ewes from the midwest and had them shipped via “Ewe-Ship.” I imagined a specialty sheep shipping service and thought, “what a cool name!”
Turns out she was referring to uShip, an internet shipping site that lets independent shippers bid on your shipment, potentially allowing you to get a great shipping rate. Someone is missing the boat by not registering eweship.com though!
Well, I don’t need any sheep shipped at the moment, but I thought, “Hey, I can deliver sheep, horses, and other livestock! Why don’t I get in on the uShip thing?” And that’s how w got started making a little extra cash for the farm. Whenever we get a chance to help someone out by transporting their animal cargo, we go ahead and bid on it with uShip. So far we’ve been as far west as El Paso, TX, North to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and east to Knoxville, TN. So far we’ve transported horses, sheep, and alpaca in our 16′ 2-horse straight load trailer with tack room. Brilliant!
If your animals need a lift give us a call or email, or simply put it up for bid on uShip (not afficliated with eweship!).
This week we drove up to Holliberry farms in northwestern Illinois to purchase our “starter flock” of Icelandics. Perhaps “flock” is a bit generous as there are just two yearlings, a male and female. We were referred to Holliberry Farm by another Icelandic shepherd who suggested that Holly was an expert shepherd and really understood the Icelandics and their genetics.
Indeed, their farm was abustle with activity. I counted at least 50 Icelandics, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the real number was double that. Although Holliberry Farm is focused on meat production, they have sheep from 4 bloodlines, and some of their rams have high quality medium-fine wool. Holly help us choose an unrelated ram and ewe that would maximize our potential for wood production.
Our goal is to have about 10 Icelandics this time next year. We will keep you posted.
Loki, our year-old painted desert ram, is now officially registered with the United Horned Hair Sheep Association. We think this will make it much easier to register his offspring, and makes it clear to customers wanting purebred painted desert sheep to verify their genealogy. Loki has been running with the Ewes this spring, so we expect his first generation of offspring to be born in the fall.
In 2001 the USDA initiated a campaign to eradicate scrapie from the nation’s sheep flocks and goat herds. Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the nervous systems of sheep and goats. It is one of several transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which are related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) and chronic wasting disease of deer. Scrapie does not appear to be transmissible to humans. By participating in the program we agree to:
- Tag our sheep with ear tags provided by the USDA that identify our farm and individual sheep.
- Report suspect sheep to a State, Federal, or accredited veterinarian.
- Submit heads from sheep over 18 months of age that die for scrapie testing.
We will begin assigning ID numbers to our sheep right away, which will serve as our official livestock inventory number.
For more information visit www.eradicatescrapie.org.
The cattleman I bought Rocket from called me out of the blue and offered to give me “Glide”, a more experienced yet still untrained, Kelpie. Glide is about 2 years old, and comes from a superb lineage. However, he was hurt badly when he was a puppy and never received much formal training. He has raw natural ability, however, and brings sheep in like a pro. She will make a nice addition to the team. He’s great with people, and even treats the bottle-babies (lambs) delicately.
Farewell to Sweetgum, whom we traded to another farm for a wool sheep. Dogwood is less than a year old, and is some sort of wool sheep mix. Loki has really taken a liking to her!
Although our plan is to have only painted desert hair sheep and an as yet to be determined wool breed, Dogwood will help us get started in wool, but we will eventually move to a pure breed like Rambouillet, Suffolk, Icelandic or Gotlandic.
We ultimately want to get out of Katahdins. Sweetgum, was a pill — always trying to escape. Her skittishness made the other sheep nervous. The flock is pretty happy with Dogwood.
We recently acquired two beautiful painted desert lambs who were rejected by their mothers. The eldest, June (short for Juniper), was born on December 26, 2016. Thor, her half-brother by the same sire, was born on January 9, 2017. Both were acquired from a farm near La Grange, Texas on January, 13th 2017.
Welcome to the family.